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Third Connecticut Resident Dies From EEE, Fourth Person Hospitalized

Chris Fifield-Smith
Creative Commons

A third Connecticut resident has died from EEE, and another person has been diagnosed with the illness, state officials announced Tuesday.

Dr. Matthew Cartter, state epidemiologist of the Department of Public Health, said in a statement that a person from East Haddam between 60 and 69 years old died during the third week of September from the mosquito-borne illness.

According to DPH, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that EEE is also the cause for illness in a Colchester resident who became ill at the end of August.

That resident, who is between 40 and 49 years old, remains hospitalized and is the fourth person in Connecticut to become seriously ill from the virus this year.

“Sadly, this has been an unprecedented year for EEE activity in Connecticut,” Cartter said in a statement. “Before this year, we have had only one human case of EEE in Connecticut, and that was in 2013.”

Northeastern states this year are reporting higher than average numbers of mosquitoes, animals and humans infected with the EEE virus. Public health and environmental experts have said activity levels have been more widespread than in previous years.

EEE deaths have also occurred in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. 

Areas of concern in Connecticut remain in southeastern towns from the lower Connecticut River valley to the Rhode Island border region where mosquitoes have tested positive for the virus.

The risk of becoming ill from getting bitten by an infected mosquito is low — according to the CDC, only about 4% to 5% of human infections result in a serious illness from the virus. But that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t take precautions, especially for the next several weeks, experts said.

“The forecast is for cooler weather to arrive by the weekend, but the risk of EEE will not be gone until the first hard frost,” Cartter said.

DPH officials said the number of infected mosquitoes are declining, but the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station Monday confirmed infected mosquitoes in Bethany and Middlefield.

DPH advises that people living in those towns as well as in eastern Connecticut protect themselves by limiting their time outdoors between dusk and dawn, wearing protective clothing, and using insect repellant.

Most people infected with EEE develop no illness, but for those who do, symptoms can include sudden onset of headache, high fever, chills, and vomiting four to 10 days after a mosquito bite, according to DPH.

About one-third of people who become ill with EEE die or suffer significant brain damage, according to the CDC.

DPH officials said people should avoid overnight camping and trips to marshes and freshwater swamps. People who think they’ve been infected with EEE or other vector-borne diseases that can cause encephalitis, like West Nile virus and Powassam virus, should seek medical care.

Nicole Leonard joined Connecticut Public Radio to cover health care after several years of reporting for newspapers. In her native state of New Jersey, she covered medical and behavioral health care, as well as arts and culture, for The Press of Atlantic City. Her work on stories about domestic violence and childhood food insecurity won awards from the New Jersey Press Association.

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